If you are you looking for a fun and easy day trip from Buenos Aires, you don’t need to look very hard. Just one hour from the bustling city you can reach the picturesque town of Colonia del Sacramento, on the border of Argentina and Uruguay.
- A Brief History of Colonia del Sacramento
- How to Reach Colonia del Sacramento from Buenos Aires
- Best Things to Do in Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay
- Dining in Colonia del Sacramento
- Getting around Colonia del Sacramento
- When to visit Colonia de Sacramento
A Brief History of Colonia del Sacramento
Colonia, as the local call it, was founded by the Portuguese in 1680 as a fortress city and smuggling port. Its strategic position made Colonia de Sacramento the object of many disputes.
Over the centuries the remote little city changed hands several times between Spain, Portugal and Britain. Finally, in 1828 Colonia del Sacramento won its independence and officially became part of Uruguay.
How to Reach Colonia del Sacramento from Buenos Aires
The easiest way to get to Colonia del Sacramento from Buenos Aires is by ferry. There are several companies that operate on this route. The fastest and most popular one is Buquebus, which departs from the ferry terminal in Puerto Madero and goes to Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay.
The terminal is very modern, with all the amenities of a small airport or cruise ship terminal. There is is a check in, a baggage claim area, a snack bar and a couple of shops.
The fastest crossing takes one hour and the slow service takes three hours. The ferry is very comfortable and has a duty free shop and a small snack bar.
You have a choice between first class and tourist class. Seats are not assigned, so you can choose to sit wherever you please. To reserve your tickets you will need your passport. Also, you’ll have to be at the terminal one hour before departure.
It’s hard to call Rio de la Plata a river in this area. It’s estuary is so large that it looks more like a sea! If I didn’t know this was a river, I would have thought I am looking at a lake.
Best Things to Do in Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay
The town’s historic quarter is filled with old colonial buildings, cobbled streets, and quirky shops. There are quite a few things to do in here in a day, so if you are planning to visit Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay, here is a what you can do there.
• Stroll the through Barrio Historico (historic quarter)
One of the best things to do in Colonia delSacramento is simply wander the streets of the Barrio Histórico (historic quarter). Before visiting the museums or the monuments, you should take a stroll and enjoy the town’s atmosphere, people and pets.
Colonia seems to be the dog’s paradise. There are plenty of friendly dogs roaming roaming around through the historic town. And if you don’t object, they may offer to ramble with you through the neighborhoods.
• Take photos
Colonia del Sacramento is a photographer’s dream! The small cobbled streets and squares are filled with old buildings, vintage cars and quaint, little shops tucked away in the most inconspicuous places.
The Spanish and Portuguese influences are very visible all throughout the city, in the lighthouses, churches and the fortified walls.
• Visit the ruins of the San Francisco Convent
One of the historic landmarks that shouldn’t be missed in Colonia are the ruins of the Convent of San Francisco, dating back to the 17th century. The convent burned down in the 18th century, but many of the old walls are still standing and can be visited.
• Walk around the lighthouse
El Faro, the beautiful lighthouse that towers over the ruins, was built some years later from stones actually taken from the ruins of the convent.
• Visit Basilica del Sagrado Sacramento
Basilica of the Sacred Sacrament is the only church within the city walls. It is also the oldest church in Uruguay. That is most likely the reason why most visitors feel compelled to visit it. The church is beautiful, but very simple and conservative.
The historic quarter of Colonia was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
• Visit at least one of the museums
Colonia’s museums are in the historic district, within a very short distance of one another. Some of them are located in old buildings that have been renovated and really worth a look.
The Portuguese Museum, housed in an 18th century building, features furniture, weaponry, and old maps of the area.
There is also the Tile Museum and Colonia’s Indigenous Museum, both housed in 19th century buildings.
The Historic Spanish Museum displays a collection of works of art, vintage weapons and replica costumes from the 17th and 18 century.
Dining in Colonia del Sacramento
There are many great restaurants in town, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Colonia del Sacramento is a tourist oriented town so there is very little chance to find bad food here. All the ingredients used in preparing the food are freshly grown in the next-door farms.
Also, due to the city’s proximity to the water, there is no shortage of fresh fish and seafood. The food in Colonia is very similar to Argentina: grilled meats, empanadas, pasta, and lots of tapas.
Experiencing the atmosphere and great food of these local restaurants is one of the things I enjoyed most in Colonia del Sacramento. Since many restaurants cater to tourists they accept foreign currency or credit cards, but it’s a good idea to check the payment options before ordering.
Getting around Colonia del Sacramento
Most of the things to do in Colonia del Sacramento are in the Barrio Historico (old town) which is very compact and easy to explore on foot. It only took us a 2-3 hours to stroll through it.
Once you arrive in Colonia del Sacramento and step out from the ferry terminal, there is a tourist information booth where you can stop for a map. From there you take a sharp left onto the street that runs along the river bank. There is no need to use public transport or take a taxi, because you will reach the center within ten to fifteen minutes of walking.
There is also a possibility to rent either bike, golf carts or scooters, in case you don’t want to walk, but my opinion is that you don’t need them.
When to visit Colonia de Sacramento
The seasons in Argentina are the reverse of those in the Northern Hemisphere. Fall and spring are the ideal times to visit this region.
Mild temperatures and colorful fall foliage. Reasonable hotel prices.
The most beautiful time of the year to visit. Mild temperatures and the jacaranda trees are in bloom.
Weather can be overcast, chilly, and rainy, though you won’t usually find snow.
Weather can be terribly hot and humid — often in the high 90s to more than 100°F (38°C)
Seeing how charming and laid back Colonia del Sacramento is, it occurred to me that we should have stayed a couple of days longer in Uruguay. Maybe even visited some other places, like Montevideo, the country’s capital. But we chose to visit the mighty Iguazu Falls instead, which I’m not sorry we did. However, I’d love to return to Uruguay someday.
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